Grayson 73, No. 9 Dacula 69
— Kyle Sandy (@KyleSandy355) January 7, 2016
A rare Wednesday night game between two Region 8 contenders set up for a fantastic finish as host Grayson (13-1, 4-1) was able to hold off an offensive onslaught from Wofford signee Kevon Tucker and Derek St. Hilaire in the fourth quarter for a 73-69 win over No. 9 Dacula (10-3, 3-1).
Tre Sconiers and freshman 6-foot-5 center Kenyon Jackson got the Rams off to a quick start in the first quarter. Sconiers scored eight of his 14 points in the opening eight minutes by finding baskets inside. He finished with a double-double, grabbing 15 rebounds and blocking four shots. Jackson, who suffered foul trouble, was also a menace inside, posting six points, eight rebounds and three blocks in the first quarter to give Grayson a 22-14 lead after one.
Alphonso Willis, one of Grayson’s leading scorers on the year, sat the entire second quarter due to foul trouble. While the senior combo guard was out, it was time for his shifty running mate to take over. Austin Dukes had a quiet first quarter, but banked in a three-pointer at the buzzer to ignite an important second quarter. Dukes began attacking the basket, sinking all four free throw attempts and netting eight points to give him 14 at the break.
As Dukes was carrying the load offensively with Willis out, St. Hilaire began to go to work for Dacula after scoring two points in the first quarter. The aggressive guard scored eight points of his own in the quarter as the Falcons remained in striking distance. Demari Edwards finished with 10 points in the first half for Dacula, but was held scoreless in the second half, putting the pressure on Tucker and St. Hilaire to scrap back from down 38-33 going into the break.
In the third quarter Grayson gradually began to build its lead and pushed its advantage out to 13 before St. Hilaire caught fire. With less than a minute to go, the senior splashed in a stepback three and then buried a deep ball with five seconds left to bring the Falcons back from the dead. After trailing 56-43, Dacula entered the fourth down 56-49.
The run wouldn’t stop there. The Falcons would go on a 13-2 run sparked by 11 St. Hilaire points to make it 58-56 with 5:50 remaining. St. Hilaire, who finished with a game-high 28, combined with Tucker to score 17 points of Dacula’s 20 points in the fourth quarter. Tucker, who finished with 24 points, scored nine points but Dacula was never able to get over the hump and never grabbed a second half lead.
With 4:52 to play, down 60-56, the Falcons drove to the basket and tried to draw contact but didn’t get the whistle. Dr. Triaga erupted after the no-call and was slapped with a technical which sent Dukes to the line to sink two free throws.
— Kyle Sandy (@KyleSandy355) January 7, 2016
The T looked like it would stem the tide of Dacula’s momentum, but the Falcons kept coming. A 5-0 run drew them within 62-61 with 3:44 left. Dukes and St. Hilaire traded bucket for bucket down the stretch. Dukes sank 14-of-17 free throws including 7-of-9 in the fourth to score a team-high 27 points and give Grayson 69-66 lead with 47.8 to play. Dacula had opportunities to tie, but fumbled them away as Grayson got the stops they needed down the stretch and finished 23-of-31 from the foul line to ice the game.
My Take: The stars shined in this Gwinnett County battle. With Alphonso Willis and Kenyon Jackson hardly playing in the second quarter, it was impressive to see Grayson with a 5-point halftime lead. Austin Dukes showed he could carry the load. The svelte guard was able to shake his way to the basket and draw contact to live at the line. Willis came away with some big rebounds down the stretch in the fourth and scored six in the fourth. Freshman big man Kenyon Jackson is a player to keep an eye on. He was disruptive on defense and finished with 11 rebounds and three blocks. If he has another inch or two left in him to grow, he could become a dominant defensive presence. With that being said, he is already averaging 10 rebounds and nearly four blocks a game. Tre Sconiers was a player that always found himself in the right place at the right time. His 14 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks were all from effort. It looked as if the Rams were running out of gas in the fourth, taking body blow after body blow from Kevon Tucker and Derek St. Hilaire, but the freshness of Willis in the fourth helped mightily after sitting in the second.
Speaking of Tucker and St. Hilaire, they went into ultimate attack mode in the final quarter. St. Hilaire single handedly pulled them back in the game with two late threes in the third. Tucker opened the game taking some bad contested jumpers but as the game wore on he began to attack the hoop and overpower defenders with his body control and size. The question surrounding the Falcons however, is who will be that third option? Demari Edwards played very well in the first half but disappeared in the second and didn’t score. The burden to score rests heavily on Dacula’s two stars, which they can shoulder, but they shouldn’t have had to score 85% of their team’s points in the fourth quarter. Outside of Edwards’ 10 points, the fourth leading scorer was Juwan White with five. Region 8 will end up being one of the most competitive regions in the state. Expect more nail-biters like this one. The two meet again on Jan. 29 in a game that should hold major implications for top four playoff seeding.
Austin Dukes – 27 points (14-of-17 FT), 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal
Tre Sconiers – 14 points, 15 rebounds, 2 steals, 4 blocks
Kenyon Jackson – 9 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks
Alphonso Willis – 10 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists
Derek St. Hilaire – 28 points, 2 rebounds, 3 steals
Kevon Tucker – 24 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal
Demari Edwards – 10 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block